Job Search Lessons from the College Admissions Season

Job Search Lessons from the College Admissions Season

Across the country high school seniors are receiving college admissions decisions this month. It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking time following months or even years of preparation and work.  In many ways, the college admissions process is similar to job search.  If you’ve been through the roller coaster ride of college admissions, or helped your teen through, there are lessons there that apply to job search.

Preparation starts early. Students begin preparing for college almost as soon as they start school. But job seekers rarely prepare for a job change until they need to make one. For best results, preparation for a job search should be happening all the time. That includes maintaining a strong network, keeping up online presence and continually adding new achievements.

Practice makes perfect. Even a student who is well prepared for college is not necessarily ready for the admissions process including essay writing and interviewing. The most successful applicants learn and practice those skills. In the same way, we are not trained for resume writing and interviewing. We need to learn and practice both to get good at them.  Don’t assume you know how to job search. What you don’t know can hurt you.

Achievements matter. Imagine a college applicant sending a high school transcript without grades.  Telling what courses you took but not what grades you got is like a resume that describes positions you held but leaves out achievements.  Just as high school students highlight great grades, make sure your resume shares your great accomplishments.

They want you to want them. Colleges call it “demonstrated interest”. They want to offer spots to students who really want to attend that college. Employers feel the same. They want to hire someone who is enthusiastic about the job, not just taking it out of desperation.  It’s imperative to bring out your passion for the job, the company and its mission.

Show you know. College applications often ask “Why are you applying to THIS school?” A good answer shows the prospective student really gets what is special about the school. Likewise, a prospective employer wants to know why you think they are special. Do great research that demonstrates to a hiring manager you are truly a match for the job and company.

Online presence can make or break. High schools students are finding their online reputation on sites like Facebook may harm their chances of getting into the school they want. Job seekers need to go further than just eliminating negative online presence. They need to proactively build a positive online presence so when an employer googles them (which they will), the result will be positive.

It’s a numbers game. College admissions and job search are both numbers games.  You have to pursue multiple options. For high school students, that means applying to many colleges. For job seekers, the numbers game is NOT about lots of applications, but about lots of networking. Building and using a robust network will lead you to job openings you wouldn’t find otherwise.  Your connections will help you in the application, interviewing and hire process.

There isn’t just one perfect match. High school students are told over and over again that there is not just one ideal school for them. There are many schools where they will be successful. Job seekers need to hear the same message. There is not just one perfect job out there. There are plenty of possibilities where you will be successful. Keep an open mind, do great preparation and optimize everything about the application process, and you will find yourself “admitted” to a great job.

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4 thoughts on “Job Search Lessons from the College Admissions Season

  1. I totally agree with this article. My daughter applied to several schools (some trial and error), but by process of elimination (school requirements, policies & deadlines, etc., which varied widely between schools) our third choice became our first, obvious and only choice for college.

  2. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your comment. Glad to hear that you have also seen the similarity in college admissions and job search.

    Please feel free to let us know if there are any job search topics you’d like to see. We look forward to your input.


    1. Phil,

      You’re right to point out the importance of always proofreading every piece of writing. Typos and grammar mistakes don’t make the best impression on potential employers.

      Thanks for your comment.

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